An as­sault on free speech

Weekend Argus (Saturday Edition) - - COMMENT -

WHEN is a se­cu­rity threat a se­cu­rity threat? South Africans could well pon­der this ques­tion given that in the past week it has be­come ap­par­ent that many of the so-called threats con­jured up by politi­cians and of­fi­cials in the se­cu­rity clus­ter come from noth­ing more than para­noia.

A week ago, Par­lia­ment’s joint stand­ing com­mit-

tee on in­tel­li­gence listed among the rea­sons for the R206 mil­lion spent on Pres­i­dent Ja­cob Zuma’s pri­vate home in Nkandla ex­ag­ger­ated threats of earth­quakes and prob­lem­atic chicken coops, vi­o­lent crime and po­lit­i­cal ten­sions.

Now the min­is­ters in the clus­ter say South Africans should de­sist from pub­lish­ing pic­tures

that may re­veal se­cu­rity de­tails at Zuma’s up­graded homestead. This, State Se­cu­rity Min­is­ter Siyabonga Cwele says, is against the law of the land. But, at the mo­ment, the min­is­ters are “ask­ing nicely” that peo­ple no longer pub­lish such pic­tures.

The South African Ed­i­tors’ Fo­rum has pointed out that peo­ple take pic­tures of na­tional key points

all the time. The Union Build­ings, for ex­am­ple, is a na­tional key point. So, too, is Par­lia­ment.

The de­mand comes in the same week the pub­lic pro­tec­tor, Thuli Madon­sela, said the Novem­ber 8 at- tempt to in­ter­dict her, which was ini­ti­ated by the se­cu­rity clus­ter, was an at­tempt to tinker with the in­de­pen­dence of her of­fice be­cause they wanted to vet her

Nkandla re­port. This, she said, was at odds with the con­sti­tu­tion which gave her “un­fet­tered power” to in­ves­ti­gate gov­ern­ment malfea­sance.

The be­fore and af­ter pic­tures of the Nkandla up- grade are dra­matic. The truth is that there has been no cred­i­ble ex­pla­na­tion for the enor­mous amount of money spent on Zuma’s pri­vate home and sur­rounds.

The only rea­son the se­cu­rity clus­ter is “ask­ing nicely” that the me­dia no longer pub­lish the pic­tures is be­cause they are a stark re­minder of this fact. This, like the pub­lic pro­tec­tor’s in­ter­dict at-

tempt, is an at­tempt to mute free speech.

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